Do I Have a Thyroid Problem?
Many people don’t know what the thyroid is and the major role it can have in your health. We’re here to answer all your thyroid questions.
What is the Thyroid?
Your thyroid is butterfly-shaped gland about the size of a quarter located in the front of your neck. Its job is to secrete a hormone called thyroxine (also called T4) that affects all the tissues in your body. Thyroid hormones govern your metabolism, heart and muscle function, and bone maintenance.
Common Thyroid Problems
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone. In the United States, almost 5 out of every 100 people over age 12 experience hypothyroidism, though it’s more common in women and adults over age 60. The good news is that most cases are mild.
Hypothyroidism can also be caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own thyroid. Hypothyroidism may also be the result of damage to the thyroid from radiation treatment or surgical removal.
If you have hypothyroidism, you might be having symptoms like weight gain, dry skin and hair, fatigue, and joint and muscle pain.
Hyperthyroidism, the opposite of hypothyroidism, occurs when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces too much T4. About 1% of women in the U.S. will confront hyperthyroidism and this number increases with age. It is less common among men.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid to work harder than it should. Another cause is a goiter (enlarged thyroid), usually the result of an iodine deficiency.
People with hyperthyroidism may experience restlessness, racing heart, muscle weakness, and weight loss.
Do I have a Thyroid Problem?
The most likely thyroid problem is a thyroid that is not producing enough hormone. If you are experiencing unexplained weight gain or fatigue, you should see your doctor to get your thyroid levels checked.
After a simple physical exam, your doctor will conduct routine blood tests to detect your levels of T4 and thyroid stimulating hormone (THS)—the partner hormone to T4 that is made in your pituitary gland. If these levels are out of balance, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you.
Supporting a Healthy Thyroid Naturally
While you’re working with your doctor, it’s important to manage the other factors that may affect your thyroid, such as stress and nutrition. Take action daily to destress, including deep breathing, meditation, and regular exercise. Adequate sleep is a must for a healthy thyroid. Lifestyle changes can be tough, but they are by far the most effective (and cheapest) treatment for many areas of your health.
Insufficient nutrients can also negatively impact your thyroid, especially a lack of iodine. Consider adding a quality multivitamin to your daily routine to make sure your body has enough micronutrients to support thyroid function.
Let’s get healthier, together,
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